Alumni profile: Binna Kandola, Occupational Psychology, 1981

— 06.07.16

by Jody Dalton

Interview June 2012

Business psychologist, Professor, writer and senior partner of PearnKandola

Binna Kandola, MSc Occupational Pscychology, 1981

Binna Kandola (pictured below) is a Business Psychologist, Senior Partner and Cofounder at PearnKandola, with over 25 years experience specialising in diversity, assessment, development and wellbeing at work. He was awarded an OBE in 2008 for his Services to Disadvantaged People and Diversity and he is particularly interested in understanding bias and finding ways to reduce it.

This is the topic of his latest, critically acclaimed book, 'The Value of Difference: Eliminating bias in organisations’. Binna shares with us how his time at Sheffield gaining a Masters in Occupational Psychology influenced his career and his thoughts on what makes a successful Business Psychologist.

What interested you in studying an MSc in Occupational Psychology at Sheffield?

I knew I wanted to study work psychology and when I was deciding where to study, there was only a limited amount of institutions and courses in occupational psychology available. Of the six centres that provided programmes in this area, Sheffield certainly had the best and most established reputation. There was such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at IWP and you really felt like part of a community. The teaching and research practice covered such a range of activities, techniques and skills with a hands-on approach, which it really did prepare you for a career in business psychology.

From gaining your MSc in Occupational Psychology, how did your career develop to where you are today?

After gaining an MSc from Sheffield I went on to study for a PhD at Aston University. My masters enabled me to progress with my career; I was even able to implement the analysis techniques I studied and learnt at Sheffield in one of my subsequent publications. I always knew I wanted to set up the business. I knew it would be challenging, as at the time business psychology was quite unheard of, but it was my goal from the beginning.

“Occupational psychologists were, and often still are, referred to as consultants rather than psychologists and I wanted to break the mould and get people talking about the practice of occupational psychology and what it stands for.”

Binna Kandola, Senior Partner and Cofounder at PearnKandola

What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?

Definitely setting up my own business has been the main highlight. PearnKandola was founded in 1984 and my aim was to create a different jargon around work psychology. Occupational psychologists were, and often still are, referred to as consultants rather than psychologists and I wanted to break the mould and get people talking about the practice of occupational psychology and what it stands for. I wanted to keep key elements, such as the learning, the development, the reading and the research and the ethos of the study of business psychology at the forefront of people’s minds.

Producing several influential books is something I am very pleased to have achieved. It’s so important to keep up-to-date with current research methodology and the developments in business psychology, and of course the developments in the science and technology of the workplace and the impact this has on our wellbeing and behaviours at work. I was also honoured to receive an OBE in 2008 for services to disadvantaged people and diversity in the workplace.

What are the three key factors that have led to the success of your career as a Business Psychologist and PearnKandola?

I believe the three key factors to making a successful business psychologist are:

1. Keeping up-to-date: I think it is very important to be informed by keeping current in your field, especially in business psychology. It is also key to maintain your familiarity with the fundamental principles of occupational psychology throughout your career and keep this ethos at the forefront of your work.

2. Finance: Having a sound business knowledge and people around you who know about business certainly helps! If you don’t know the basics of business, then definitely invest in people who do. And, if you can, it is worth learning a little about the key principles of business development.

3. Selling: Being able to market your business and being proactive when it comes to business development. This can make a real difference and shouldn’t be underestimated.

What advice would you give to someone interested in studying work psychology at the University of Sheffield?

Opportunities are tight these days, so you need to get all you can from your course. At Sheffield I was able not only to study, but to put into practice real research and analysis techniques. This proved invaluable when I was starting out in my career. The most important piece of advice I would give to anyone practising in the field of business psychology, is always remember you are a psychologist – your learning, research, reading and development should always reinforce the psychology behind your work.

What are your plans for the future?

As with all business, current times are testing. So the main focus will be to overcome the challenging times ahead. I hope to continue publishing and am in fact preparing a book to come out next year. I also enjoy community-based work and the fulfilment is overwhelming. My location provides great opportunities for community projects such as readers in schools, mentoring schemes, working with the homeless and volunteer work.

Notes: Binna was a Visiting Professor at IWP at the Management School and was recently conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Science by Aston University. He is the co-author of several books, one of which, ‘Managing the Mosaic’ won a Special Commendation at the 1994 Management Book of the Year Awards. He is also a regular contributor to the HR and business press and a highly regarded conference speaker. The Independent on Sunday recognised him in 2004 as one of the UK’s Top Ten Business psychologists. Binna recently came back to the Management School in November 2015 to celebrate and participate in a penl event in celebration of IWP's 40th anniversary.

For more information about PearnKandola see: www.pearnkandola.com

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